Cooking Fish: Which Method Is The Healthiest?

Holistic Nutrition

In dietary terms, fish is divided into two main groups, namely lean and fatty fish. No, we are not discriminating against fish now. The difference is based on that even though both are super good sources of protein and nutritious benefits for us; fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

Ideally, you should be eating fish at least once or twice a week, as it can help protect your heart, reduce your risk of getting a stroke and a string of other health conditions. This since purely since fish contain most of the good stuff our bodies need.

With most, in fact around 40% being vitamin D deficient, eating fish can help to overcome this problem. If we do not address the lack of vitamin D within our system then we stand the chance of developing some serious health issues such as cancer, diabetes, heart problems, autoimmune diseases and dementia just to name a few. Therefore, eating sources of food like fish that contains vitamin D is the next best thing than being in the sun to get vitamin D.

Added to that, omega-3 fatty acids are needed by our bodies and brain to work in tip-top shape. Here these fatty acids have been linked to preventing certain cancers and reducing heart disease.

Although fatty fish has some great benefits, lean fish offers health benefits as well. These include lower risk of metabolic syndrome and lessen the risk factors for heart problems.

But how you prepare your fish could influence the nutritional composition. This means that some methods are healthier than others methods. This article will be exploring this by looking at the various cooking methods to prepare your fish.

Boiling and grilling fish

Very similar methods of preparing fish is by grilling or boiling it. This is where very high heat is applied to the fish. However, other methods do not need you to add extra fat while preparing the fish.

On the negative side, as you grill or boil your fish, compounds form, namely advanced glycation products. These compounds form naturally in your body as you age, but can also form in muscle-containing foods such as fish when the fish is cooked at high heat. The problem with compound glycation products is that it has been linked to Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, other harmful compounds like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can form during these cooking methods. Again, the risk is when the fish has been prepared at high temperatures and mostly over an open flame.

You can cut your risk to these harmful compounds by not cooking with an open flame, to reduce cooking times and not to char the fish. Interesting enough, research has shown that if you apply a marinade to the fish, you reduce the risk of these compounds to form.

Pan-frying and deep-frying

The cooking methods of pan-frying and deep-frying uses high-temperature and hot fat.

The method of deep-frying consist of sinking food in a huge amount of fat, while pan-frying uses a smaller amount of fat in a wok, pot, or a skillet. If you fry fish, the fish will absorb some of the fat. This means that the calorie content will increase plus changing the sorts of fat it contains. In fact, lean fish will absorb more oil than fatty fish. More so, cooking fish in an oil, like as vegetable oil, that has high quantities of omega-6 fatty acids can surge its content of inflammatory omega-6s. In addition, since high heat are used, the healthy omega-3 fatty acids can be destroyed in the cooking process, by around 70 to 85 percent. There is an exception, as herring can still maintain its content of omega-3 fatty acids even after frying.

It is not just the omega-3 fatty acids that are destroyed by frying, but other nutrients like vitamin D can be halved after this cooking method has been used.

More problematic, is that high heat of this cooking method could cause more harmful compounds HAs, PAHs and AGEs to form.

Still, in general pan-frying is healthier than deep-frying. This is since a smaller amount of oil is used. Also, select oil that is stable at high heat and will add healthier fats to your fish. Olive oil is one healthy option.

Poaching, steaming cooking methods

The cooking methods of poaching and steaming use water or other liquids during the cooking process. The method of poaching involves ducking the fish in a liquid such as milk, water, stock or even wine while cooking in the oven. Whereas, steaming is often carried out in a specially designed pot or appliance, and uses hot, vaporized water to cook your fish. Still, neither of these two methods uses oil or fat. Thereby there is no added calories or changes to the fats within the fish.

Also lower temperatures than other methods are used with these methods. This means that it helps to preserve nutrients and is thought to minimize the formation of harmful chemicals like PAHs and Has. However, to steam fish may surge the number of cholesterol oxidation products, and these can be harmful compounds formed when cholesterol is heated. Nonetheless, both of these methods are viewed to be healthy. That is since lower temperatures and the lack of adding cooking fat could help preserve the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in fish better than other cooking methods.


Microwave ovens cooks the fish by using waves of energy. These waves interact with some of the molecules in food, causing them to vibrate, which heats the food. This is a controversial cooking method as it is believed that is method changes the structure of the food.

However, as this method is fast more of the nutrients are preserved better than some other methods And that harmful compounds like PAHs and HAs are less likely to form, compared to frying.

Which method is the best?

Although fish is very healthy, the method to cook it might not be. Factors like the sort of fish, cooking method, length of cooking time and cooking oil could all influence the nutrition value of the fish. But the healthiest method is one that does not destroy omega-3 fatty acids and retain most nutrients, without formation of damaging compounds. The best would be steaming and poaching your fish are your best bets. Deep-frying fish would be the worst method.